Three Ways to Better Manage Gift Officers

Want to increase your team’s revenue by 48 percent?

(That’d be a great way to get the trustees to name a building after you.)

This secret to growing revenue is simple but takes hard work.

According to the Harvard Business Review, good managers “contribute about 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers.”

Putting the right leaders in place, becoming a better manager yourself, or learning how to manage up is critical to the overall success of your team.

Yesterday, we talked about management with Susan Armacost, Executive Director for University Development at the University of Memphis — one of the most dynamic (and fun!) people we’ve met. Her team has already eclipsed its annual fundraising goal, is tracking to exceed visit and proposal goals, and laid a great foundation for FY20 and beyond.

You can watch the entire broadcast here. It’s loaded with great ideas for anyone leading a group of development or major gift officers (or for anyone who’d like to in their next job). If you’re pressed for time, here are three quick takeaways.

(Seriously, though, set aside a few minutes to watch… it’s free and there’s no travel involved. It’s great professional development that also fits around your schedule.)

Personalize 1-on-1 Meetings

As a manager, the most important thing you can do is… wait for it… manage.

That means your primary focus has to be to help your team be the best team it can be. You do this by investing in their success (crushed goals and accolades will follow) and helping meet the needs of each person in your group.

Every teammate has different growth areas. A manager’s job is to spot those and help them grow. If they’re really great at having conversations and booking a lot of meetings, but aren’t making enough asks, they need coaching in that area. Or maybe they need help prospecting and building pipeline? Perhaps they’re leading a new initiative and need your support in avoiding roadblocks and red tape.

Pick the growth area and make that the priority for your 1:1 meeting. Personalize those get-togethers to make them productive and valuable meetings for you and your direct reports.

By the way, EverTrue really helps with this. If you don’t know where to start, have your gift officers bring a laptop and review their portfolio together. Look at the stages and outstanding proposals and see where there needs to be more movement, then attack that area, together.

Here’s a post we really like about holding great one-on-one’s.

Hold Your Team Accountable

Having clear, set-in-stone goals automatically improves your 1:1’s because it becomes easy to see areas that need improvement or success that deserves recognition.

If you’re tracking activity, then you need to know how active the development officers have been. It’s really easy to pull a report in EverTrue — pick a gift officer and look for interactions in the last month. You can even sort by type (meeting, email, phone call, etc.) to see what’s happening.

If you require gift officers to have substantial interactions with each portfolio prospect every 90 days (like Memphis does), then stay on top of this using EverTrue. Create a saved segment of prospects who haven’t heard from their officer in the last three months. See below for the recipe.

Stay on top of outstanding proposals. Have your fundraisers report on everything that’s open and the plan to close key asks. If you’re tracking dollars in the door (which you should be; as Susan says, “We are fundraisers first.”), then you need to help your team stay on top of open asks.

Take Time to Improve Travel

Travel is an expensive, yet critical part of major gift fundraising.

Susan reviews plans with her team prior to approving trips and also uses travel as a pipeline-building opportunity. More visits mean more opportunity, so make sure your fundraisers see enough of the right people on each trip. As Susan aptly put it, “Work in the 85 percent, not the 15 percent.” Prospects aren’t qualified on paper — they’re qualified via conversations and meetings.

To help build pipeline, the Memphis research team curates an EverTrue list of interesting, highly rated, unassigned prospects, which their development officers can draw from for filler or qualification visits.

There’s no reason for a one-off trip. Even if you’re headed to Saskatchewan, there’s always someone else to meet with nearby. Make sure your team looks for other donors with high levels of engagement, good lifetime giving, or even just a high job title nearby.


Thanks again to Susan for managing (oh yeah, we went there) to fit in a webinar to her already busy schedule. Once again, you can watch the entire thing here.

And if you want to find out more about how EverTrue can help you manage your team better, don’t hesitate to ask.

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